The Authentic Replica

Rebuilding the Shinto Shrines at Ise (Japan)
Preparations for the 62nd renewal in 2013

A Film by Niels Gutschow and Christoph Henrichsen
D 2011, 70 min

At Ise, both the principal shrines, Naiku and Geku, as well as the fourteen auxiliary shrines are replaced by faithful replicas every 20 years. The 109 smaller shrines are repaired once every 20 years and replaced every 40 years. The location of the shrines has been fixed for 1300 years.
The design and method of construction have changed only marginally, thereby preserving the architectural form of the 7th century.
It is the ritual that bestows an aura of authenticity on the architecture. From the Shinto point of view, the material authenticity is of no importance. Daily offerings of food and the cyclical reproduction of untainted residences ensure the benevolent presence of the deities.
This documentation features on-site visits to the forest and workshops of the shrines in May 2011. Craftsmen such as carpenters and tinsmiths are filmed at work. Activities include cutting the trunks, planing and measuring of members, preparing thatch for the roofs.
The daily procession offering food to the deities of the outer shrine (Geku) and a food offering at the Yamato-himejinja illustrate the intense ritual aura in which the entire sacred landscape of Ise is embedded.